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BYU climbs to No. 11 in Coaches' Poll, No. 12 in AP Top 25 after win over Houston

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Oct. 18, 2020 at 12:11 p.m. | Posted - Oct. 18, 2020 at 10:38 a.m.



PROVO — After passing its toughest test of the 2020 season to date, BYU football kept its spot among the nation's top teams Sunday morning.

The Cougars inched up two spots to a tie for No. 11 in the latest edition of the USA Today Coaches' Poll, and climbed two more spots to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Top 25. That puts the Cougars just behind Miami (Fla.) and just ahead of North Carolina after the Tar Heels' first loss of the year to unranked Florida State in the coaches' poll.

The AP poll ranking remains the highest for BYU since climbing up to No. 7 in 2009 before finishing at No. 12 nationally.

BYU also ranks sixth in Jeff Sagarin's ratings with a score of 94.86, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Georgia in the largely computer-based metric.

That BYU, which rallied to beat Houston 43-26 on Friday night, is ranked among the Top 15 teams in the country isn't much of a surprise anymore. The Cougars are 5-0 for the first time since 2008, and are one of just 10 programs still undefeated on the season with a minimum of three games.

Others on that list include top-ranked Clemson, which rolled Georgia Tech 73-7 on Saturday; Alabama, the SEC power that picked off Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett three times en route to a 41-24 win over the Bulldogs; Coast Carolina, the 4-0 Sun Belt squad that won its first-ever game as an FBS program against a ranked opponent with a 30-27 win over No. 21 Louisiana; and Liberty, the fellow FBS Independent that cruised past ACC program Syracuse 38-21 Saturday in the Carrier Dome to improve to 5-0 for the first time since the Flames were an FCS Big South program in 2008.

Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame, Georgia and Ohio State mark the top-five in the AP poll. The Bulldogs (3-1) are the highest-ranking one-loss team after Saturday's loss to Alabama. The Cougars jumped ahead of No. 13 Oregon for the first time since the AP began allowing teams to vote for Pac-12 schools whose seasons have not begun.

Utah received 36 votes, nine spots outside the Top 25 and just behind unbeaten Liberty.

With arguably the toughest test behind them — and certainly the toughest matchup until a Nov. 7 road trip to Boise State — the key focus for BYU now remains on keeping the current schedule ahead of them. Before that date with the Broncos, the Cougars have home tilts Saturday against Texas State and a first-time matchup with Western Kentucky on Halloween night.

How do they keep the focus on the Bobcats, who are just 1-5 after a 30-20 loss to Sun Belt division rival South Alabama, and the Hilltoppers, who fell to 1-4 after being blitzed by UAB 37-14? BYU wide receiver Dax Milne provided some insight after the big win over Houston.

"It's fun to get a win each week," Milne said. "We celebrate it throughout the weekend, talk about it Monday, and after that, it's over. We know we're a great team, and if we minimize mistakes, we can play with anybody."

If BYU stays focused, it should take a 7-0 record into the Blue Turf. That would top the 6-0 start in 2008, when Max Hall and the Cougars suffered their fist loss of the season in a 32-7 blowout at No. 9 TCU. BYU finished 10-3 that season, adding losses to rival Utah and a loss to Arizona in the Las Vegas, marking roughly the norm for the Cougars through their six 5-0 starts in program history.

Of course, one of those finishes stands out above the others:

  • 2001: After a 12-0 start and rising as high as No. 9 in the AP poll, BYU lost at Hawaii 72-45 prior tot a 28-10 loss to Louisville in Liberty Bowl in Gary Crowton's first year as head coach. The Cougars finished the season ranked No. 25 by the AP.
  • 1984: The best case scenario, BYU rolled to a 13-0 record that included an 8-0 record in the Western Athletic Conference, and finished ranked No. 1 by the AP and coaches with a 24-17 win over Michigan in the Holiday Bowl for the program's lone national championship.
  • 1981: BYU finished 11-2 with a 7-1 record in the WAC before a 38-36 win over No. 20 Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. The Cougars finished No. 13 by the AP and No. 11 by the coaches.
  • 1979: BYU piled up an 11-0 regular-season record that included a 7-0 mark in WAC play before losing to No. 9 Indiana, 38-37 in the Holiday Bowl. The Cougars finished the season ranked No. 13 by the AP, No. 12 by the coaches.

This BYU team ranks among the more complete ones in the nation, at least statistically. The Cougars rank among the most complete teams in the country, at least statistically. BYU ranks sixth in total offense, averaging 541.0 yards per game with 43.6 points, and just outside the top-10 in total defense with 288.0 yards allowed per game

Individually, quarterback Zach Wilson's star is shining brightly — and he's even being mentioned as a potential NFL Draft pick. The junior who prepped at Corner Canyon ranks third nationally with 1,641 passing yards, tied for fourth with five touchdowns, and eighth overall averaging 348.2 yards per game. He also ranked second nationally with 110 points responsible for prior to Saturday's slate of games.

If the Cougars keep playing like they have been, he'll see plenty more scores, too.

On the air

No. 12 BYU (5-0) vs. Texas State (1-5)

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 8:15 p.m. MT

TV: ESPN

Radio: BYU Radio, KSL Radio

Series: First meeting

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